Shakespeare The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film is a string of essays describing the problems involved in adapting what is essentially a thearical form to cinema. It's an academic work and so the writing is quite dry at times and because we have essays we have repetition - how many times you can write about Olivier's 'Richard III'?

There are three essays of note. 'Videos and its paradoxes' looks at the use of video as a study aid, and how the prouctions on show can colour the student's view of the play - so Anthony Hopkins characterisation of Othello in the BBC production is wildly different to Lawrence Fishburne's in the recent film - neither is necessarily correct, but the student might not make that connection.

'Filming Shakespeare;s history: three films of Richard III' offers the best and most honest review of Paccino's 'Looking for Richard' I've read, treating the film on its own merits and not as a version of the actual play. Finally, 'Flambiyant realist: Kenneth Branagh' again tries to re-dress the critical mauling his films have been subjected to - there really isn't anything like the four hour 'Hamlet'. The one disappointment is 'Shakespeare's cinematic offshoots' which looks at adaptations which are re-imaginings of the text. It's cursary, anodine and misses out 'In The Bleak Midwinter' and 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead'. Why?
Shakespeare Fascinating interview with Kevin Klein regarding his Tony nominated performance as Falstaff.
Shakespeare Macbeth test silly, say irate teachers: "The 14-year-olds taking the compulsory exam on the Bard were asked in the paper on Macbeth to write as if they were agony aunts for a teenage magazine. The question, in the paper devised by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, told the pupils: "In Macbeth, Banquo warns Macbeth about the witches' influence. You give advice in a magazine for young people. "You receive this request: 'Please advise me. I have recently moved school and made some new friends. I like spending time with them but my form tutor thinks my work is suffering. What should I do? Sam.' "Write your advice to be published in the magazine."
Shakespeare Multi-lingual performance celebrating diversity: "Students auditioned for the parts, and 28 were selected to narrate and perform scenes from Act 2 and recite sonnets. Each scene — including that with Juliet perched at her balcony calling for Romeo and that with tragic duo's secret marriage — was performed in all three languages by different pairs of Romeos and Juliets."
Shakespeare Paltrow gives birth to baby Apple: "The baby weighed 9 pounds 11 ounces and both mother and baby were said to be doing well."

The Saturday Sonnet


When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

[translation, analysis]

Scene Unseen:
The Usual Suspects: John Ottman Interview

Film After last week's interlude with Spike Jonze, here is an example of what a film maker interview can be like. Its a static shot of two people talking, Jess Bond of Film Score Monthly and John Ottman the composer and editor of The Usual Suspects. There they sit for fifteen minutes but its a startling riveting piece which takes in Ottman's career both with Bryan Singer and elsewhere.

The more interesting section describes the process of using a temp score on a first cut of a film. As the editor of the film, he knew the material better than many composers so when he added the temp track to the film using some of his favourite pieces from the time, but he did such a good job that the executives wanted him to create an original score which was very close to the temp track. Luckily he had already composed main theme so he was able to incorporate this throughout the film meaning that the music could still retain its own style. But then because what he had written was so good he found himself watching trailers and even other films were the theme would crop up either literally or reproduced slughtly. In fact, he turned up to score another film and found another temp track which featured something which sounded like The Usual Suspect and pretty much was, only slowed down.

I can see what he means. Time and again a film will be slightly ruined because I'll spend the best part of its running time trying to work out were I've heard the main theme before. But as Ottman describes, its largely not the composer's fault. Often they're an after thought - the last thing before the film is released - so they don't have the time to sit down and create something entirely original so they will spin off something they already know. One of the more amusing moments in the dvd commentary of Love Actually is when Richard Curtis says how good them music is at the end and Hugh Grant quiping how good it also was in Shakespeare In Love. Happily for Ottman he has the time to create something new and has actually stopped listening to other music. He's in a position in which you can tell that it's a 'John Ottman' score in the same way you can tell a 'John Barry' score -- but he doesn't say it out of arrogance -- its an example of self understanding and an appreciation of how far he's come.
Commerce I watched the following exchange happen at lunchtime in the second biggest Boots The Chemist in Liverpool City Centre. A security guard approached a clerk who stacked the shelves:
Guard: Erm ... we have a situation.
Clerks: Right.
Guard: There's a woman who's been walking around the shop for two hours.
Clerks: Ok.
Guard: She's been telling the customers she's a member of staff...
News A Google seach demonstrates how life can change in twenty hours....

I wonder if his boss took the decision before or after he spoke this morning about how he wasn't going anywhere.
Spam Somewhere along the line I think I must have registered with a music website and my email address has been shopped around so almost every day I get something telling me about this or that potential top pop act. I usually delete them before the bandwidth sapping picture of some wey-faced stool sitter can download. But I was putting my slippers on and didn't have time to lose this one before the whole thing appeared. I'm posting the complete contents of the message because you wouldn't believe it otherwise. It appears to be entirely irony free. Pay close attention to the beginning of paragraph three:
"Two things you?ll notice straight away about 19 year old Jentina. First, she's gorgeous, with the kind of natural good looks that stop traffic. Second, she?s a real personality with a passion for the music she's making, not another pop puppet with nice hair and teeth and nothing underneath.

She grew up listening to Nas, Biggie and Tupac and fell in love with hip hop. She would spend hours as a kid trying to write lyrics of her own. So when she finally decided to sort her life out, she knew music would be the key. She moved to London and got a job in the hip Soho clothes store/gallery Zoltar The Magnificent. She would stand behind the counter with her laptop making beats and 'just wishing'. A chance meeting and one 30 minute rap later, her manager invited Jentina to the studio and the rest is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Jentina?s debut single, 'Bad Ass Strippa' is an lesson in pure attitude and low-end funk and one of the most accomplished debuts you are likely to hear for years!! With New York City's very own legend Jimmy Douglas on production duties, Jentina's whispered chorus and the warm bass that drips out of the speakers propels the track into the realms of the classic. Throw in an O'Jays 'For The Love Of Money' sample which could hardly exemplify the song?s attitude more directly, and you have a speaker-quakingly fine record that will sound just as at home on daytime radio as in the underground clubs.
I realise now why I never read these things because its annoyed me somewhat. Time for a list. Five things:

(1) In the accompanying photo Jentina is demonstratably attractive. Except she's wearing a tracksuit which just screams 'outside the chippy with me mates and white cider on a satdy nigh' So full marks for picking up on the zeitgeist of the target audience.

(2) The title of the song. I remember a few years ago when The Prodigy were kicked around the hit parade for producing the song 'Smack My Bitch Up'. The message we have here is that it wouldn't have caused the same controversy if it had been sung by Jennifer Lopez.

(3) And given the title, publicist thinks it 'will sound just as at home on daytime radio as in the underground clubs'. When I listened to 'daytime radio' as a child, Blondie was as racey as it got. For the purposes of this missive and to give a balanced view I've visited the website so you don't have to and listened to the thirty-second preview. It's not any better or worse than anything else in the charts, nothing write home about. The song is basically a masterclass in exotic dancing. Said publicist and so the record company apparently think its acceptable to introduce kids to the world of strip clubs at three in the afternoon. I should mention here that the above was accompanyed with: "CALL THE BOX on 09012 930 100 and vote # 285 for the brand new video for Jentina's hot new debut single 'BAD ASS STRIPPA'!!" So they want people to pay for the 'pleasure' of seeing this as well. But the content. The title. Daytime radio. Something doesn't add up. [Before you get all huffy about free speech movements, I'm right with you. Its just there are times of the day. I agree with the need for a watershed and film ratings. It just feels like childhoods are being shortened more and more.]

(4) 'the hip Soho clothes store/gallery Zoltar The Magnificent' What is this a seventies teen film parody? All it took was for her to rap for thirty seconds before being offered a record contract. Is this is just a 'street' version of how Pete Waterman infected The Reynolds Girls on the world?

(5) That said publicist actually thought that this arr-shucks gush was the perfect way of selling a track with attitude to the public. Its the music equivalent of the blurbs which I never read on the back of video boxes and just as insipid. Take out the names and title and put in someone else's and it becomes a joke:
"Fraser Hines's debut single, 'Punch and Judy Man' is a lesson in pure attitude and low-end funk and one of the most accomplished debuts you are likely to hear for years!! With New York City's very own legend Jimmy Douglas on production duties, Fraser's whispered chorus and the warm bass that drips out of the speakers propels the track into the realms of the classic. Throw in an O'Jays 'For The Love Of Money' sample which could hardly exemplify the song's attitude more directly, and you have a speaker-quakingly fine record that will sound just as at home on daytime radio as in the underground clubs."
Effectively its the writing style of a teen mag used to sell something which is surely meant for a more mature demographic. Didn't you people learn anything from the alco-pop debate?

If my conscience is pricked that someone sat down and wrote this and it's their job and they may hate their job and they're just trying to make a living and its being targeted at a different market anyway, all I want to say is this. Yes, I've written some pretty purple prose myself (some of it no doubt in this very post) but look at how you're portraying a real person. Without any irony, your reducing her to being a thing. You might say 'she?s a real personality with a passion for the music she's making, not another pop puppet with nice hair and teeth and nothing underneath' but that has the effect of making the reader think that either she is all those things and you're just trying to hide it by protesting too much or that if she's everything you say she is why aren't you letting her speak for herself? Somewhere along the line, Girl Power has become wholesale objectification. That can't be good.
Logobar Hope you like the new gizmo. Now I can't be accused of using a logobar for far too long ... [hint: click 'refresh']
Shakespeare An intriguing production in which the characters from the real play find themselves taking part in the making of a film: "In the new comedy, Puck and Oberon are returning to a wood near Athens, as directed at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Puck mistakenly follows a sign that says 'A Wood Near Athens.' That sign is on a 1934 Hollywood sound stage at Warner Bros. 'They become engulfed in this movie that's being made around them,' Ludwig told Playbill On-Line. 'Oberon falls in love with one of the actresses, and Puck falls in love with just being there and getting treated like a star.' People at the studio think the fantasy figures are studio actors. When Victor Jory and Mickey Rooney have to unexpectedly leave the project, Oberon and Puck get cast as Oberon and Puck. (Jory and Rooney both did the movie.)"
Shakespeare Basically, imagine the film School of Rock if a man playing Shakespeare had turned up instead of Jack Black. Getting kids to relate to the play: "'How did your son die?' Shakespeare, surprised and somewhat saddened at an old, still painful memory, said his boy caught a fever and died; as if to reassure his audience, he added that medicine wasn't very good in those old days. And then another student jumped up and said the boy's fever was caused by rats, and the rats gave it to flies, and the flies bit the people, and the old playwright allowed that there was some truth to that."
Shakespeare New film uncovers the mystery of Edward De Vere, yet another possible author of the canon: "Roland Emmerich has committed to direct an intense 16th Century drama, exploring a theory about the true authorship of Shakespeare's works. No, no, it's all right, you're not dreaming, nor has that suspicious guy by the copier slipped ketamine in your coffee again. Ladies and gentlemen Roland Emmerich is back, and this time... he's serious."
Shakespeare Mouthwatering selection of quotations about food:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O! it came oer my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour.

"Twelfth Night" (1.1.1-7)
H2G2 Yesterday was the third anniversary of Douglas Adams' death, but at least there is a bit of light this year. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy -- The Official Movie Website has opened with a bang (you'll see) and you can keep up with developments at the adjoining weblog (which today features a cast and crew photo).
Architecture A few days ago I talked up the Pevsner Guide To Liverpool, rewritten by my old friend Joseph Sharples. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo took Joseph for a walk around some of the buildings mentioned in the book, including the old Royal & Sun Alliance Building:
"Sharples has a sneaking admiration for the concrete lines of the Royal & Sun Alliance building in Old Hall Street ... at pavement level "its blank walls give little pleasure, but from a distance - and especially from the river - its rugged bulk and distinctive silhouette contribute greatly to the skyline. As a monumentally selfimportant head office of a local insurance company, it follows worthily in the tradition of the Royal Liver Building." But, over a cup of tea after our blustery, rain-splashed walk around the Canning Street conservation area, Joseph says: "Oh dear, does that sound critical? It's not meant to be."
Its alway odd when you read quotes from people you used to know well in print because often they don't sound like themselves at all. On this occasion II can here the man say the words and can't wait to bump into him at Lime Street Station or on a bus (as I usually do) and congratulate him on what is a really great read.
Life The local postal service has finally imploded in on itself. Having reduced the service to one delivery a day, we don't seem to be even getting a weekend post either. There is always the sneaky suspicion that some post isn't getting through at all and First Class items are sometimes taking a day or so so be delivered. It's hit my ScreenSelect deliveries pretty hard. Where once I used to glory in six discs a week now I'm lucky to get five; last week what with the bank holiday I received two. This is reducing my value for money, goddamnit. Spokespeople for the Post Office say that its just slight teething problems during the transition into a new way of working. But surely if everything had been planned correctly there wouldn't be teething and their business and our service wouldn't be effect....
TV What already? Big Brother V starts 28th May and I won't be watching. Far too many other things I could be doing. Then again I said that last year and look what happened. So we'll see....
Shakespeare Extensive interview Adrian Noble, the former artistic director of The Royal Shakespeare Company: "Of course, there were things that went dreadfully wrong at the RSC, and I deeply regret them. The principal mistake was announcing everything at the same time. We should have got the company's structure sorted out first, and moved on to the redevelopment later. As it was, opposition to one aspect of the project rebounded on to the others, so that nothing got considered on its own terms. People wanted a scapegoat, and as I'd been based at the RSC for 23 years, I was an easy person to pick on. But now I'm out of it, I'm not bitter. [French actor/director] Jean-Louis Barrault said, 'You must feel passion for everything but cling to nothing' - quite right. Festering is not in my nature. I have to move on."
Shakespeare Is still not colour blind, as eyebrows raised over the casting of a black African-American as the villainous Don John in new production: "Bob Devin Jones thinks questions he has gotten about being the only black actor in the cast and playing Don John are perhaps more telling about the general state of theater casting than they might seem. "In a way, even the most informed people, by saying, "Why are you playing the villain?' tacitly are referencing that it would be an automatic choice that the African-American would play the villain," he said. "If you scattered us throughout any particular play, it wouldn't come up."
Shakespeare New performance appears as matinee at the Shakespeare on Avon Festival.
Shakespeare Some notable performances in productions of Will's plays crop up in the new Tony nominations: "As expected, one of the toughest categories to predict will be that of leading actor in a play. Kevin Kline and Christopher Plummer, who respectively played Shakespeare's Falstaff and King Lear, are competing against Frank Langella's bravura performance in Match, Simon Russell Beale's triumph in the National Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's Jumpers and Jefferson Mays' juggling of 35 roles in Doug Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife."
Shakespeare In Korean: "It takes place in a world of Korean fairies such as Kyunwoo (herding boy) and Jiknyo (weaving girl) in ancient times in Korea. It is a love story that takes place one summer night in which reality and illusion are mixed together."
Shakespeare Don Pedro hits the streets: "And I'm pretty sure there wasn't any hip-hop trio called Super Dope Posse in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing." This would be Shakespeare's loss. There is such an aggregation in Mosaic Youth Theatre's "Everybody's Talkin,' " an original musical based on "Much Ado," and its members nearly steal the show as they wax poetic on subjects like potato chips (crunch! crunch!) and SpongeBob SquarePants."
Music Knock Alanis Morissette all you want you unintiated masses but she can write a catchy chorus. Granted I'm singing in her choir but I've already got her new single trying to break out of the edges of my brain and it was only released yesterday. Everything, taken from her soon to be new album So-Called Chaos is yet another development of a style which has slowly flittered onwards since the mid-ninities -- a middle ground between the rock and ethnic sounds she's been experimenting with for the past few albums. Not that the singer has cut back on the verbage. Only Alanis could make a lyric like 'I blame everyone else not my own partaking / my passive aggressive-ness can be devastating', put music behind it, make it scan and make it beautiful. Really positive about the album now and happy that we might be able to put Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie behind us.

Avil Lavigne also released yesterday with a piece which flirts with trying to be Alanis by numbers. Regular readers will know about my love/hate relationship with the new pixie -- I'm probably far too old for her and I know intrinsically she's been plucked and developed to appeal for the markets Britney, Christina and Norah can't bust into. But like all of those there is a certain currency in having easy music -- something you can just listen and yes sing along to. So here I am with the other single I bought yesterday. Don't Tell Me is basically more of the same -- not at all surprising -- verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus fade to end. Lacks the emotional intensity of 'I'm With You' but not a total loss. What niggles is that it feels like an album track -- something from the middle to pass over time between singles. But this is the single which suggests that the new album may have issues. We'll see. The b-side, an acoustic version of the same song feels better to me, less produced, less vocally perfect -- and Avril can sing better live than ever. Perhaps a miagi style mentor has been getting to practice.
Shakespeare for no reason I can write about here I thought I'd offer this bit of four hundred year old poetry which is a perfect examples of why men know nothing about women. It's the final speech from The Duke at the end of the play.

For those not familiar, in brief, The Duke has spent much of the thing running around in disguise tidying up after he left his deputy in charge of his city in an attempt to clean up the city -- while The Duke wants to tidy up the people's attitude Angelo brings in some far more draconian laws than he was expecting. In one sub-plot Isabella, a nun, watches as her brother Claudio is condemned to death for making his girlfriend pregnant out of wedlock. The deputy, Angelo, offers to set the brother free if Isabella will sleep with him. The Duke manipulates the action so that Angelo sleeps with one of his ex-girlfriends and the brother is freed. Now see what he does here:

She, Claudio, that you wrong'd, look you restore.
Joy to you, Mariana! Love her, Angelo:
I have confess'd her and I know her virtue.
Thanks, good friend Escalus, for thy much goodness:
There's more behind that is more gratulate.
Thanks, provost, for thy care and secrecy:
We shill employ thee in a worthier place.
Forgive him, Angelo, that brought you home
The head of Ragozine for Claudio's:
The offence pardons itself. Dear Isabel,
I have a motion much imports your good;
Whereto if you'll a willing ear incline,
What's mine is yours and what is yours is mine.
So, bring us to our palace; where we'll show
What's yet behind, that's meet you all should know.

So basically, The Duke having saved Isabella from sleeping with Angelo and breaking her holy orders and beliefs (the real issue at hand) offers her the same thing, grinning as he does so. In no production that I've seen has he had his way with her. At least she dashed off the stage. The best reaction was a slap across the face and a push of the throne, which is about what he deserves.
Site News Unsurprisingly I spent my writing hour tonight getting used to Blogger's new interface and implementing the new comments system. Do me a favour and leave a message so that I know this thing is working and we'll talk some more tomorrow.
Shakespeare The Charles Knight version of the canon rendered online: "This website presents 38 engravings from the Imperial Edition of William Shakespeare's Complete Works by the Victorian publisher Charles Knight. You can view accompanying texts in English and in Dutch, and, for thirteen texts, hear them enacted in English."
Shakespeare "'To buy?' not the question...": "Wealthy Shakespeare fans had a rare opportunity April 14, when Christie's New York offered at auction a third-quarto edition of Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Published in 1611, it was expected to sell for $2 million. In 2001, a first-folio edition sold for $6.2 million, more than double Christie's highest estimate. The price set a record for Shakespeare at auction, as well as a world auction record for a 17th-century book."

[Later: Hamlet fails to sell at auction]
Shakespeare More on Will's food, this time what he might have been eating at dinner time: "It is impossible to say exactly what Shakespeare ate, but one can make educated guesses. Excavations around the site of the old Globe have uncovered mounds of oyster shells, Ms. Segan said. Oysters were served both at taverns as a pretheater snack and inside the theater itself, the Elizabethan equivalent of ballpark franks. Shakespeare's frequent mention of them ("love may transform me to an oyster," says Benedict in "Much Ado About Nothing") makes it all but certain that he slurped on oysters or ate oyster pie during long days at the theater."

[Related: Francine Segan, Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook]
Shakespeare With RADA celebrating its centenary this year, BBC News provide an overview of some of its most famous sons and daughters: "Steve McFadden is best known as bad boy Phil Mitchell in BBC One soap EastEnders. He attended Rada in his mid-20s for two years. Previous jobs before joining the Academy ranged from carrot picking and street trading to plumbing and working with the disabled."
Shakespeare An overview of Ontario's forthcoming Stratford Festival: "The perfect selection to open the season in summer is "A Midsummer Night's Dream," one of three plays this season rated G, great for families. Instead of an English wood, the scene is Brazil, where Hippolyta, Amazon queen, reigns. Mischievous Puck plays court jester while other spirits toy with the emotions of Man, tradesmen try to master acting, and the magic of a summer's eve in the Amazon rain forest plays tricks on lovers who chase each other by night. All's well that ends well, so to speak."
Shakespeare Or in fact Hamlet! The Musical: "The show includes a slew of Nashville stage veterans and is done, mind you, with ''full respect'' for the original Shakespearean work. Its cast of characters has everything from an all-too-egotistical thespian to a Ted Nugent-like rock singer, with a theater co-owner who ''hawks beauty products at the ticket counter'' in between."
Shakespeare Shakespeare - the Musical: "a play about the Bard with excerpts from his plays and poems, with words and music by Cenarth Fox, proved to be a memorable spectacle. Under the able guidance of Ms Caroline Pullicino and Ms Clarissa Fleri Soler, who produced and directed the play, over 100 fourth form students gave an excellent performance of music, dance, song and drama. It was a joy to watch these beaming teenage girls on stage as they were obviously enjoying themselves. Maybe it was the subject matter, very dear to my own sensibility, but surely the verve and confidence which all and sundry showed on stage, that made me wish the spectacle would never come to a close."
Life I think I have a clock hidden in one of the walls of my room, or under my bed or in a drawer. Every now and then when its particularly quiet I can hear the ticking sound. I'm 89% certain it isn't a bomb, and I know it isn't any of the other clocks in my room -- all but one of those is digital and I have the other in my sights). But there it is again, that damn ticking sound. The trouble is whenever I try and follow the sound, it gets swamped with the crunching of me standing up or walking. I'll keep you posted with any major updates on this important story.